NGO Natural Resource and Wildlife Preservation Organisation (NRWPO) director Chea Hean and two families have accused two-star general Chea Yothin of suing them at the Kampong Speu provincial court for defamation in a 105sqm land dispute in Phnom Sruoch district.
Hean said on Thursday that the two families and Yothin were locked in a land dispute in Chambak commune after the latter accused the families of grabbing his land.
The families sought intervention from Hean, after which Hean found out that the land Yothin had taken was located inside the Kirirom National Park which is protected by a royal decree.
“After I posted on Facebook that I would investigate the site which the families claimed Yothin had grabbed, he responded by suing me on February 25 for defamation,” he said.
He said in addition, Yothin had also arrested and imprisoned a villager for attempted murder and that he planned to sue another one in connection with the land grab.
Hean said that since he and his lawyer were to appear at the court for questioning over the case, he is happy to disclose that he believes Yothin has already been involved in a total of 700ha of land grabs in Kampong Speu.
Chambak commune chief Chey Him said he did not support Yothin’s actions because he was misusing his power to threaten the local authorities to sign documents to illegally cut off the land from the national park for him.
Him claimed that Yothin also abused his powers by ordering local police to arrest and imprison a villager, Soeung Run, and sue another.
“The disputed land is state land without any land titles, and generations of families here have worked on it. However since Yothin appeared, he has been claiming that the land had belonged to his nephew and he threatened and sued the families with the intention of making them leave.
“Yothin also threatened me, in an attempt to make me sign a document to cut off national park land for him. He has threatened a commune clerk as well, but I told him that I did not dare to [sign] because the land is protected by a royal decree,” he said, adding that he and other villagers have been living there for years.
An official at the provincial Department of Environment, who asked not to be named, was hesitant to elaborate on the case but confirmed that Run was charged and put in prison without any reliable evidence.
“Please help to find justice for him [Run]. He never caused any problem or grabbed any land. People in this area do not like the conduct of the senior official [Yothin],” he said.
District governor Horn Piseth said he was unaware of the case. However, he claimed that the provincial authority had already seized the land in the area as state property.
Yothin claimed on Thursday that he did not sue any villagers or Hean and that he did not have any land there either.
However, he claimed that his nephew on his wife’s side had possessed the land there and that recently Run and Tith Sam Ol had planted posts and built a hut within it.
“My nephew told them to leave the land, but they refused. When I came to visit the land Run drove a motorbike behind my car and hit it, damaging one of the doors and blocking my way,” he claimed.
On February 24, Run had been accused of using violence on Bou Sang, who is the land guard for his nephew. Sang subsequently sued Run but the court has since released him.
“I did not sue them and I don’t have any land there. They just accused me, but I never grabbed anyone’s land. I only spend the money I have. I never harmed anyone,” Yothin claimed.